File purgatory — Disk Drill 3 is the kind of software that can almost literally save your life if you have deleted files, or something went wrong with computer and files have disappeared. Macs typically don’t actually delete the file itself. The usual process is that when you Empty Trash, the links to the files are obliterated, but the files themselves are there, hidden. The space they occupy then becomes listed as free space and if you need to save a new file, or install a, large app, import a movie etc and it needs that space, the file will ‘overwrite’ that space, making whatever file existed there before irretrievable.
For this reason, various software (or the ‘Secure Empty Trash option on Mac that still have non SD hard drives) will write zeroes over where files were to make them irretrievable.
You can do this in Disk Utility, for example, the Apple ute that sits in the Utilities folder in Applications. In this case, depending on what kind of hard drive your Mac has as its main drive and what software integration you are on, you can either choose Erase and then click Security Options to write the zeroes, and older versions of the utility let you write zeroes over empty space without erasing the entire HD, although my version no longer allows this.
You should always do this before you pass your Mac on to someone else or sell it, for example, so they can’t reconstruct all those spreadsheets showing there you have spirited away those millions … Erase the Hard Drive with Security options, reinstall the OS from scratch and then sell it or otherwise pass it on.
Anyway, software like Disk Drill can rebuild links to files that have not yet been overwritten. It’s a free download from Clever Files and this is clever indeed – with the free version, initiate a scan to see if those files you lost are retrievable. Once upon a time, you then had to upgrade to Pro (for US$89) to actually retrieve them, which is better than buying the software to then discover the files aren’t retrievable. But boy, does Clever Files have a deal for you … because this free version does recovery as well.
Disk Drill 3 for Mac (I reviewed the previous version in November 2015) can recover not just from your internal hard drive but from almost anything that plugs into your Mac: backup drives, other storage external drives, USB ‘thumb drives’, many camera cards and even, with this latest version, from iOS devices. This will get back photos, videos, texts, contacts and messages. It can even scan and recover from Kindle and Android devices you plug into your Mac.
Additionally, there are various disk management abilities that come with it, which let you find duplicates, monitor the health of all those drives and to instil some level of protection. These tools, all free as well, include Disk Health, Mac Cleanup, Duplicate Finder, Recovery Drive, Data Protection and Data Backup. It would be worth the price of Disk Drill 3 for these anyway … oh yeah, but it’s free. So that’s a no-brainer.
In operation, install Disk Drill 3, select the drive to recover from, click Recover next to it, wait for the scan to conclude (this can take a long time depending on how big, full or fast that media is) and then tick the files you wish to retrieve from purgatory, and click Recover again. A cogwheel icon next to Recover lets you further configure how deep you wan this operation to go (main picture, above).
Last time I reviewed it, I said it looked like a port from a PC app – in other words, it looked (and felt a little like) it had been developed for PC and then ported over and modified into a Mac app. This version is better: it feels faster, looks slicker and its features are easier to find and use. It can recover files from different types of media too – formatted for Apple’s Mac OS Extended, the default, of course, but also HFS+, NTFS, FAT (Windows’s usual format) and more, and if you scroll downwards at this link, there are several sorts of recovery methods covered for you.
The Pro version — As I said, this is one hell of a deal considering it does so much, well, and with an improved more Apple-like interface. But you can further should you wish, but paying for the Pro version. That’s US$89 for a single user or US$399 for Enterprise with full support for everyone in your company. This version offers free lifetime upgrades (you can pay another US$29 as an add-on to get that with the Pro version). Both have two levels of scanning (normal plus Deep, for a greater level or recovery) and they can rebuild a lost HFS+ catalogue, search deleted partitions and handle even more media types with more configurable searches. Upgrades from previous pro versions are $50 off, and there’s even a competitive upgrade (from another company’s product) for US$50 off (Education, Non Profit and Government copies have a $20 discount).
Conclusion — This is a fantastic new version that will make you feel more secure in almost every way about your precious hard drives and other media.
What’s great — The free version does almost everything now, and has additional tools to scan and recovery, including disk protection and duplicate finding, plus cleaning of all those annoying sludge files that gum up your system (and other) drives. And it’s better looking and easier to use. For documents and photos, this is very effective.
What’s not — Not as good at recovering video and music files.
Needs — Anyone who likes free software that’s really well written and effective.
Disk Drill 3 — The standard Free already does a lot and includes scan and recovery plus handy disk management utilities; US$89 for Pro adds features and US$399 gets you the Enterprise version for a whole company’s Macs with lifetime free upgrades.
System — Requires Mac OS X 10.8.5+. (Other versions are still available for older Macs.)
Further information — Clever Files site.